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Penaklukan Jepun: Suka Duka di Georgetown (The Japanese Conquest: Pleasures and Sorrow in Georgetown).

This book reproduces portions of a journal kept in Penang during the Japanese occupation of Malaya by Captain Baba Ahmed bin Ahmed (b. 1888, d. 1967), a man whose full given name was Shaik Hayati Meah bin Shaik Ahmed Meah. The names suggest diverse origins, and Baba Ahmed's son, who prepared the journals for publication, says the Malays considered his father a Jawi Peranakan, a term applied to people of mixed Indian and Malay ancestry, despite the fact that his father treated Malay as his mother tongue. Baba Ahmed also spoke English, Tamil, Hindi and Hokkien, and wrote his journals in English, though for publication they were translated into Bahasa Malaysia, the Malaysian national language.

Baba Ahmed was trained as a Dresser, a position that was later and more accurately called a Hospital Assistant, and the outbreak of the war found him assigned to a Dispensary located on Buckingham Street, in the heart of Penang's main city, Georgetown. He was also involved in the Penang and Province Wellesley Volunteer Corps, where he achieved the rank of captain in 1931.

As published, the Journals of Baba Ahmed contain almost no personal details. They simply record information that struck him as interesting, gleaned from diverse sources: newspaper articles, radio broadcasts, government notices, rumours and first-hand observation. The tone is dispassionate. This account of events in the days leading up to the screening of Chinese residents, an episode which in Penang as elsewhere resulted in a large number of deaths, shows the flavour of the work:

30 March 1942 Penang road was closed to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and all doors and windows had to be closed, while important Japanese officials passed by.

2 April 1942 All those living in government quarters received a 70 per cent reduction in their house rent.

3 April 1942 Horse racing resumed, and the Wembley Amusement Park re-opened with bangsawan [a form of Malay theatre popular in northwest Malaya] and Chinese opera performances, gambling and other entertainment.

4 April 1942 A four-man committee that had administered Penang during the interregnum was officially dissolved.

5 April 1942 Japanese soldiers threw a cordon around various areas of Georgetown to attempt to locate Communists, and also in the Kampung Mahi area along Perak Road, one of the primary evacuation areas used by Chinese living in Georgetown.

7 April 1942 Hundreds of Chinese have assembled before the Penang jail seeking information about their relatives who have been detained.

As the occupation progressed, Baba Ahmed made progressively fewer observations on events, and much of the latter part of the volume consists of articles drawn from the Penang Shimbun newspaper reproduced without comment, still a valuable contribution because information from any source for the 1944-45 period is scarce.

While most of the material in this volume is taken directly from Baba Ahmed's journal, the compiler occasionally adds editorial comment. The content generally makes it clear when this has been done, but it would have been helpful to indicate typographically the points where the compiler speaks in his own voice. This small complaint aside, the volume provides a unique and very useful addition to the literature on the Japanese occupation.

Paul H. Kratoska National University of Singapore

COPYRIGHT 1996 Cambridge University Press
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kratoska, Paul H.
Publication:Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1996
Words:534
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